How To Beat Match

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Beat matching is the ultimate skill any DJ should learn. It doesn’t matter if you are a beginner or professional, using vinyl turntables or a DJ controller, beat matching is something every DJ should be capable of. 

Beat matching is a term DJs use for the art of creating a seamless mix between two songs playing simultaneously. The DJ will pitch-shift or time-stretch one track to synchronise with the existing song being played. 

It is not simply playing two tracks at the same speed, or tempo, the two tracks will also need to match in terms of their beats – either the kick or the snare. 

It was created to stop the audience leaving the dancefloor at the end of a song. If you manage to seamlessly mix one track into another, with no breaks in between them, the crowd can continue dancing. 

While a standard practice for electronic music or club DJs, it is possible to beat match almost every genre available, especially if there are obvious, regular drum beats. 

How to beat match

The first part of beat matching is to match the tracks’ tempos or speeds. Tempo is measured in Beats Per Minute (BPM). If you are playing a track at 125 BPM to the audience and the next track is 122 BPM the DJ will usually increase the tempo of the second track to that of the current playing track (125 BPM). This is done using headphones and not out through the main speakers. 

Next, the tracks will need to line up so the main beats are playing simultaneously. This can be achieved by ‘nudging’ the deck platter quicker or slower until the kick drum or the 4-beat phrase matches. 

You can actually perform both of these methods at the same time. In fact, if you are using vinyl turntables and/or you don’t have a visual tempo display, this is a better option.  

To practice this, play the first track from the start. Hold the second track at the first beat or kick drum. When you hear the next phrase or 4-bar beat coming, start the second track. To begin with, they may sound in sync, but that will probably quickly change. 

When you hear the tracks start to go out of sync, nudge the second track forwards or backwards, or speed up or slow down the deck in the direction that would match them up again. 

For every movement you make with the track, adjust the tempo: if you move the track forwards – increase the tempo slightly. If you moved the track backwards – slow down the tempo slightly. Adjust the tempo every single time you nudge the track. 

There is not really a quick way of learning to beat match, other than regular practice. Use two tracks with similar BPMs, ideally electronic or dance music and then try other genres using the same principles. You may listen for a different sound to match within the track other than the main kick drum. It could be a hi-hat or snare, or even a bass note or guitar riff. 

Always try beat matching with tracks of similar speeds. Using tracks with completely different BPMs, for example, tracks of 95 BPM and 135 BPM will sound wrong as you would have to speed up or slow down on song so much it will be obvious, even if they are synchronise. 

Beat Match
By Goncalopp - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=26923900

Pitch and Tempo

Tempo is the speed of a track, measured in BPM. Pitch is the frequency or harmonic level of the track, increase the pitch and it sounds higher. 

Usually, pitch and tempo go together – increase the tempo (speed) of the track and the pitch increases by the same amount. 

With modern technology, DJ controllers and CDJs often have a function to hold the pitch even if you adjust the tempo. This can be selected or deselected as required. 

The Sync button

sync button

Most modern DJ equipment such as DJ controllers and often DJ software have a ‘Sync’ button. This feature is effectively an auto beat match button. It matches the tempo of two tracks and matches their phrases – aligns them for a 4-beat bar. 

This operation is done using a computer algorithm. It’s a bit like doing a sum – it needs the correct numbers to calculate the answer. If the software is unable to find or identify the exact data it needs, there will be an error. 

So, if the software is unable to identify the beats, bars or BPM of a track it won’t work. Or even worse, it will misunderstand the track and give you a false outcome.  

Certain genres or tracks with unusual or irregular beats can confuse the system. If you tried to sync a track of 60 BPM with an unusual 125-BPM track, it may mistakenly adjust the second track to 120 (Another reason why you shouldn’t try to beat match tracks with large differences in their BPMs). 

The Sync button is a great feature, but only when it works. If it fails it can leave you stuck. If this is your only way of beat matching and you’re playing at an event it could be quite embarrassing 

This is why you should learn to beat match manually before relying on technology to do it for you. 

Beat Matching Tips

Use similar tempo songs – Whether practicing or playing live, try to stick to mixing tracks with similar BPMs. A 120 with a 125 BPM for example. If your controller allows adjusting the tempo limits, set it to +/- 8%, that way anything outside of this range won’t work, this is best practice. 

Use tracks from the same genre – When practicing, use electronic dance tracks (of similar BPMs). It’s easier to identify the kick drum beats, the bars and the phrases. Move on to other genres and perfect them before mixing genres. 

Get some good DJ headphones – You need to learn to beat match with the best tools you have available. DJ headphones will allow you to hear the tracks well so you can notice if there are any issues. 

Record and judge – When you are confident with beat matching and mixing skills, record a 30-minute mix and listen back to it. See if you made any mistakes and learn where to improve. Ask your friends to listen too. 

Take a lesson – There are many videos online where you can learn beat matching and mixing for free, but you can also sign up for a professional course. Some of them teach you with your specific equipment or software too. 

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

How do you beat match without synching?

You should never rely on the Sync button – learn the manual way:

  1. Use 2 tracks of similar speeds
  2. Start track 1 playing
  3. When it gets to around the 16th bar, start track 2
  4. Nudge track 2 forward/backwards to align them
  5. Slightly increase/decrease the tempo with each nudge
  6. Repeat until both tracks are in sync.

 

How do DJs beat match?

There are two ways DJs can beat match: Using the Sync button and manually beat matching. The sync button effectively beat matches automatically using a computer algorithm. The manual way involves playing two tracks and adjusting the second one by nudging the deck and adjusting the tempo until both tracks align.

 

How do I practice beat matching?

  1. Use 2 tracks of similar speeds
  2. Start track 1 playing
  3. When it gets to around the 16th bar, start track 2
  4. Nudge track 2 forward/backwards to align them
  5. Slightly increase/decrease the tempo with each nudge
  6. Repeat until both tracks are in sync.

 

Can you beat match any song?

Yes. There are some useful tips though. Ideally use two tracks with similar BPMs (120 &125). Electronic dance music is easier to learn, but you can use any genres, providing the are similar speeds. The BPM is measured by the main kick drum. Each time you hear it, count – 1, 2, 3, 4. As long as you can identify the beats and the speed, you can beat match it with another track.

 

How can I DJ without syncing?

If you want to avoid using the sync button, follow these general rules:

  1. Use 2 tracks of similar speeds
  2. Start track 1 playing
  3. When it gets to around the 16th bar, start track 2
  4. Nudge track 2 forward/backwards to align them
  5. Slightly increase/decrease the tempo with each nudge
  6. Repeat until both tracks are in sync.

Conclusion - How to Beat Match

Beatmatching is not just for old school, vinyl DJs, it’s a skill that all DJs should be good at. Take some time to learn and practice. Even if you plan to use the Sync button, it’s not always effective and beat-matching can help you in many situations. 

How to Beat Match for beginners

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